Tuesday, October 30, 2007

End of a Great Month!

Well, the woman who won the cupcake challenge certainly made me cook my socks off this weekend! To end World Vegetarian Month, I had a drawing for my colleagues to win a dozen free cupcakes of their choosing. Cappuccino Cupcakes from Isa's VCTOTW, was the poison the winner selected.
It was pure pleasure to be making these, and I was glad she asked me to make these, because I had never made them and I probably wouldn't have chosen to make them any time soon. This is because there were four steps. First, you make the mousse filling, which had two steps itself. I had to use agar flakes, but although Isa recommended cooking them longer than the powder, I found that the mixture started cooking down to nothing and I had to stop earlier than suggested with this step. Anyhow, the filling was incredibly creamy and puddinglike, but I did find some little lumps in it, that were undoubtedly the agar flakes that hadn't dissolved properly. Hope no one else noticed it! :)

While that chilled for about an hour, I baked the cupcakes (which came out perfectly!), and then while those cooled, made the frosting. Then I poked careful holes to fill the cupcakes with my handy-dandy icing/frosting gadget from Pampered Chef (like a big syringe with different tips). Then I washed this and filled it again with the frosting. Then I made the chocolate ganache and quickly dusted them all with cocoa powder. Three hours later, and these are the beautiful results. The kind recipient sent an email to everyone, saying they were the best cupcakes (vegan or otherwise) she'd ever had, and her husband added, "phenomenal." Because one of her daughters has a nut allergy, she is going to buy the cookbook herself. Yay! Others who enjoyed them (she couldn't eat all 12 herself!) commented that if vegans ate only cupcakes (like these), they would be vegan right now.

Unfortunately, despite my weekly efforts to inform and entice my fellow teachers, I found that some people still hadn't been reached. While a couple people said that they might become vegetarian after all this great food and info, one said to my face during a discussion about food for an upcoming party, "Well, what'll you eat? Tofu?" I was happy to have my wits about me enough to respond, "Where have you been all month??!!" Then I went home to eat an awesome three-bean chili (from Vegetarian Times, Oct. 2007) and kale with coconut-spice sauce, while I watched the Patriots kick some Redskin ass.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Endless Protein Sources

Once again, I can only shake my head and chuckle when someone asks me what I do for protein. I think about what my own husband eats on a daily basis, even though he is cutting out more meat now, and only see how boring a meat-based diet can be! Veganism, on the other hand, has endless options...

For a good example, this is a Spicy Red Lentil Dal, from a recent Vegetarian Times magazine issue. I had the craving for it after the Charlottesville Vegetarian Festival, where we tasted it from the Ethiopian food vendors. This was just as good, if not better! It was soooo simple to make, so that was an added bonus. Perfectly spicy! Red lentils are an excellent source of protein and fiber. They cook up more quickly than other beans and lentils, which was great for a weeknight meal this week! So creamy and filling. I ate it with a sprinkling of chopped cilantro, as well as brown rice and peas. Quick question for rice cooker connoisseurs: I love my rice cooker but brown rice often comes out underdone. Should I add more liquid? Anyhoo- Rating for the dal: 4 stars (out of 4)! Maybe I'll make some naan or injera next time to eat with it.

For our wedding anniversary, we usually stay at a bed and breakfast (last year, it was the awesome White Pig). This year, as we tried to save some cash, we took a trip back to the Shenandoah National Park, which we visited back in September. We were hoping for a heartbreaking color explosion, but thanks to the drought this summer (and into the fall!), the colors were not as spectacular as they should have been. We did enjoy a hike, though, as well as incredibly yummy faux chicken salad sandwiches with fruit, spiced nuts and chips! The chicken sandwiches were made with tempeh, which was poached and chopped. The texture and flavor was very convincing, at least I thought so. I can't believe it's been almost a decade since I tasted chicken! Weird. At any rate, the recipe is in La Dolce Vegan. This recipe is a must make for anyone who likes sandwiches!
This was a perfect time and place to remember my grandfather, who passed away one year ago. We were at the White Pig when we heard he was doing poorly.

Here is a shot of the White Pig, where we stayed last year. How I wish I were there again!

After that dose of fall, and a hard week at work, I was ready for some easy cooking this weekend. Here is an incredibly easy and deliciously "fall" soup! I got the recipe from a friend at the last Veg Group meeting. Here it is! Heat in a saucepan the following: 1 can plain pumpkin (15 ounces, roughly - when will we join the rest of the world in our units of measure??), 1 can light coconut milk (I used organic, too), 1 can cannelini beans (I mashed these a bit in the pot), and 2 cups of veggie broth (or one can- I used bouillon cubes). So, heat these four cans (ok, empty the cans out and just head the contents!) in the saucepan until hot. Add some pepper and fresh sage (those light green things floating in the middle of the cup are whole sage leaves, but I shredded the ones I added). What could be more simple or more fall? Delish.

For the last picture of this post, I'm leaving you with some Vegan Snickerdoodles, also from Veg Times. I am not usually blown away by this magazine, but this was the second kick-ass recipe from them in one week! These smelled heavenly while baking, were pretty easy to make, and best of all, tasted just like I remembered :)
Poor hubby thought I made them for him, but I am bringing them into work for the fourth week of World Vegetarian Month. I

am also doing a "free cupcake giveaway drawing" from Isa's awesome cupcake book. Winner gets a dozen of their choice! I wonder what I'll be making?....

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sweets to the Sweet!

I never thought I'd say this, but I'm sick of sweets! I made so many sweet things this week, I was almost nauseous. Actually, I was really getting over my stomach bug (not the flu as I had thought!), and I had to eat pretty bland and boring things. But I could still bake up a storm for my friends, right?

I began with Banana-Coconut Bars from Fat Free Vegan's blog. They were a delight to make and to eat! I made these for my friends at work for World Vegetarian Month. They got rave reviews, but I think that they could have been less flat. I wonder if anyone else has tried this recipe in a smaller pan for 'higher' results? At any rate, they were sweet, chewy, and yum! Rating: 3 stars

I also made these Maui Muffins with Orange Glaze, from The Candle Cafe Cookbook. They were a repeat from the summer, and just as good as I remembered! The only difficulty with these is telling when they're done. Because of the moist pineapple in the batter, a testing toothpick stuck into a muffin may still come out wet! However, they are overall easy to make and scrumptious! Great for a brunch, and pretty looking, too. Rating: 4 stars. Overall rating from my co-workers? Well, I think the empty containers at the end of the day spoke for themselves.
Later in the week, I had to make goodies for our monthly Sierra Club meeting. I made two things I had made in the past, so there would be no bad surprises. First, Isa's Raspberry-Chocolate Blondies (top) and then (bottom) Vegetarian Times' Peanut Butter Chocolate Banana Bread. Both were devoured. I was disappointed in the blondies, however, because once again I couldn't tell when they were done, due to the jam in middle. They looked completely done on the top, but when I cut into them later, they were underdone in the middle! I couldn't believe it, but I salvaged the edges, tried to re-cook the middle squares, and still they were scarfed down! I was happy that no one realized that they weren't quite perfect. As Isa says herself, "never apologize for your food." Rating for both (on a good day): 4 stars! Soooo addictive.

After that sugar rush, I was in the mood for something a little healthier (actually, with 2 cups of sugar in the blondies, something a LOT healthier). So, here are this week's treats for my co-workers, in celebration of World Vegetarian Month. The first shot is of Carob-Almond Truffles, from Veg News. The lighter ones (here I go apologizing again!) are lacking the proper coating, as I ran out and had to use just carob powder. However, they are pure goodness, with dried fruit and nuts only. I bought a raw food book over the summer, and this inspires me to crack it open again. What decadence with no refined sugar! I love carob ....no fat, no cholesterol, and no caffeine! I'll have to let you know how they are received at work, but I give them- Rating: 3 1/2 stars.

Next, we have Spiced Nuts from La Dolce Vegan, one of Sarah Kramer's books. They were wicked easy to make, and only had two tablespoons of olive oil in the whole 3 cups of nuts. There was an abundance of spice, from cayenne to nutmeg, but it wasn't overpowering at all. In fact, I would probably add more spice next time! Again, I don't know how they will be judged at work, but I give them - Rating: 2 1/2 stars (they aren't very original, but they are still good!).

Finally, we have something all for me. The simplest of suppers. Hubby wouldn't share this with me because he has a thing against cooked fruit in his meals, but then he tasted it and thought it wasn't too bad! It wasn't bad.... it was amazing. This is African Pineapple Peanut Stew from a Moosewood cookbook, which I copied recipes out of over the summer (not my book). This was so easy to make and the spices were spot on! In a West African tone, it was spicy from the Tabasco sauce, sweet from the crushed pineapple, and salty from the crunchy peanut butter! Actually, those are pretty much the ingredients, aside from that beautiful fresh kale, and some onion, garlic, and fresh chopped green onions and raw peanuts. It reminded me of fried rice from a Chinese restaurant, but so much better. In fact, it recommends serving this over couscous, millet, or rice, but I don't do much with carbs so I opted out. I can't wait to eat the leftovers tomorrow night!! Rating: 4 stars, easily. My other meals for the week were simply canned baked beans (vegetarian, of course) with pieces of veggie dogs mixed in, and then some baked beans re-heated with fresh spinach (till it wilted) and canned pineapple. Not bad for no recipe! Still, not worthy of a photo :)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Around the World in Seven Days

I thought that this post's title would be a good choice to tie in all the weird pictures I have to share this week. I'm only posting them now, instead of my usual Sunday, because I am just getting over the flu! Yuck. I have only eaten bananas, toast with vegan margarine (I like Soy Garden), a few handfuls of cereal (not good, since it had sugar on it), and Ginger Ale (never thought till now why it's good for you when you're sick - the ginger is good for nausea!).
Anyhoo, talking about being sick isn't a good way to being a food post :P

The first picture here is Dreena's Gingered Pear Crisp, from Vive le Vegan. I can't believe it took me over a year to get around to making this! It is incredibly easy and soooo yummy. Not too sweet, but just right. Perfect for the fall. My only change next time would be more topping, and make it crispier. I made this for my school's monthly staff breakfast, and it was gone pretty quickly! I also made an apple crisp of Isa's, but I had the same complaint - not enough topping! I tried to make it crispier with vegan margarine (the apple, not the pear one), but it only helped slightly. You see, growing up Yankees, my family had the BEST apple crisp around, and still does (living almost next door to Johnny Appleseed's birthplace didn't hurt, either!). Unfortunately, the recipe calls for a TON of butter and sugar in the base and especially the topping. I will be working on a vegan apple crisp recipe for Thanksgiving! Oh - it's coming so soon!

Then, we decided that we needed something a little different, and went to get some Thai flavors from coconut milk and peanuts in this dish, Tempeh with Coconut-Peanut Sauce from Veg News. Yum, yum, yum! Very creamy sauce and no big coconut flavor, for those that worry about coconut milk in recipes. It just makes them creamy and delish! Sorry for this somewhat closeup photo, but if you see the next one (which I took with no flash, as suggested by another blogger), it sucked even more.

I steamed some broccoli as a side dish and the sauce was perfect on top! I can't eat steamed veggies plain. Raw, yes, but not steamed...

Last, we have Chole that my husband (gotta' think of a screen name for him - suggestions??) actually whipped up, this time from India. It was so damned good I had to get a photo. The picture isn't that great because I didn't have time to plate it before he scarfed it down, but trust me it was good! He used an authentic recipe from a very old site I was given by a friend back in college (the friend was Indian). Here is the link for you - happy eating - wherever you want to go!